Red Sox

Cook uses right ingredients in second start for Sox

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Cook uses right ingredients in second start for Sox

BOSTON Barring a total calamity, Aaron Cooks second start with the Red Sox this season was virtually ensured of going better than his first.

In his first outing, May 5 facing the Orioles, Cook lasted just 2 23 innings, giving up seven runs, six earned, on eight hits and a walk with one home run. He was hurt covering home plate on a passed ball in the second inning, when his left shin was spiked opening a gash that required 11 stitches. Despite the injury, Cook stayed in the game.

But he was placed on the disabled list the next day with a record of 0-1 and a bloated 20.25 ERA.He had been working his way back since then. He was scheduled to make his second rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Pawtucket but was pulled just before game time.

In both major league starts Cook was pressed into service because of health concerns with other starters.In his first outing, he was taking the place of Josh Beckett, who was sidelined with a lat strain. On Sunday, the Sox needed him to fill in for Clay Buchholz, who has been hospitalized with gastrointestinal issues and placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to June 20).

Against the Braves Sunday Cook went five innings, giving up three runs, two earned, on six hits, with no walks and no strikeouts, as the Sox won, 9-4. He earned the win, improving to 1-1, lowering his ERA to 9.39. Working at a brisk tempo, Cook threw 79 pitches, 48 strikes.

Cook kept the Braves off the scoreboard through the first four innings, giving up just three this, on 55 pitches, 34 strikes.

He faltered in the fifth, though, allowing the first four batters to reach base. Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons opened the inning with singles, scoring on Eric Hinskes triple to the deepest part of center field. Juan Francisco reached on Cooks error, with Hinske scoring. But Cook got out of the inning with no further damage, turning the game over to the bullpen.

It was his first win since Aug. 11, 2011, with the Rockies against the Marlins.

Aaron Cook was, I think, even a little more than I was hoping for, said manager Bobby Valentine. Got up close to 80 pitches and really only had that one ball to center field that was hit hard. The guys on before that, a groundball and a broken bat. But he worked quickly. His sinker looked good. He elevated some balls, threw inside to left-handers a little better than I had seen him in spring training or the last time out. It was a good job.

Although he had had just one rehab start with Pawtucket -- going four innings Monday night at Syracuse, giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts, throwing 66 pitches -- Cook said that was enough.

Ive been doing it a long time. So its kind of like riding a bike, he said. Once you get your pitch count up to a certain level its just a matter of going out there and executing and letting the mechanics take care of everything and thats what I was able to do today.

Im really close to 100-percent, probably 85-, 90-percent of where I was. The biggest thing would be get my pitch count back up. I was at 66 pitches in my last Triple-A start. Sunday I was at 79 pitches. So I felt really good. It was nice to get out there and pitch some quality innings and get a win today.

Cook got nine of 15 outs on groundballs, a good sign that his signature sinker is working.

Actually, I felt a lot sharper than I did my last outing down in Pawtucket, he said. So actually kind of surprised. But my sinker was working, my cutter was working, and me and catcher Kelly Shoppach got into a great rhythm early and just keep going.

With Beckett on the DL, eligible to be activated Wednesday, and Buchholz, eligible to be activated July 5 although the severity of his health concerns is not known Cook is likely to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Barring an unforeseen calamity.

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and FanRagSports.com's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday.